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Federico García Lorca

About Federico García Lorca

Ten things you might not know about Lorca

Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) was born in Fuente Vaqueros, a village in the lush plain that surrounds the city of Granada in Southern Spain. He spent his formative years in or around Granada, and the area's landscape, culture and myths shaped his writing even after he left the city to move to Madrid in 1919. In Madrid he came to form part of the literary avant-garde that played such a decisive part in shaping the city's culture during the 1920s and 1930s.

At the Residencia de Estudiantes, the student boarding house where he lived during his first six years in Madrid, he became close friends with Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel. All came into contact with surrealism during their time there and their artistic practice — in theatre, film and art — demonstrates a palpable intertwining of shared interests and aesthetics. The 1920s saw Lorca recognized primarily as a poet. While an early symbolist play, The Butterfly's Evil Spell, had been staged by Gregorio Martínez Sierra at the progressive Teatro Eslava in 1920, it had been poorly received, and it was not until 1927 that Lorca was able to secure a production of his 1923 play Mariana Pineda in a production designed by Dalí. Professional success with the publication of what has become his most translated poetic work, Gypsy Ballads, in 1928, brought a falling out with Dalí and Buñuel who bemoaned what they saw as the anthology's sentiment and cliché. Soon after Lorca escaped to New York and his time there was to witness a decisive shift towards surrealism and expressionism both in his poetry and plays. Poet in New York was published posthumously in the early 1940s and The Public, his most audacious and overtly gay play completed in Cuba and Spain was only seen in Spain in 1987.

On his return to Spain Lorca was to continue his association with Margarita Xirgu, who had produced and performed in Mariana Pineda, crafting a series of plays for her. The Shoemaker's Wonderful Wife, The Love of Don Perlimplín, Blood Wedding and Yerma were all premiered in Madrid during the period between 1930 and 1934 and while not all were initially presented by Xirgu, Lorca's collaborations with key actress-impresarios was to prove seminal in the public dissemination of his stage works.

During Spain's Second Republic (1931-36), Lorca also initially took charge of the state-funded student theatre company, La Barraca, touring classical Spanish works across rural Spain. These shaped his understanding of theatre as a public art and shaped his dramaturgy in palpable ways. Lorca's rural plays, crafted during these years, draw on classical forms and archetypal characters moulded to a Spanish rural milieu.

With successful productions of his works also in Buenos Aires, the early 1930s effectively saw the consolidation of Lorca as dramatist. The Chekhovian Doña Rosita opened in Barcelona in 1935 and Lorca completed his final play, The House of Bernarda Alba, in June 1936. Lorca never lived to see the play staged however. Escaping to Granada where he thought he'd be safe from the worsening political situation in Madrid, he was arrested and shot just two months later, an early victim of Spain's brutal Civil War (1936-39).

Lorca's affiliation with Spain's Second Republic had turned him into a hate figure for the Right even in his own lifetime. In death, the Nationalist Government led by Francisco Franco sought to obliterate references to his life and death and it was not until 1954 that the Government allowed an edition of his complete works to be published. Productions of his plays, which had been limited to tiny amateur or fringe theatre settings in the 1940s and early 1950s, finally reached the mainstream stage in the early 1960s. After Franco's death in 1975, he became a powerful symbol of the artistically vibrant and political liberal Spain that had been lost with the advent of the Civil War and his plays were widely staged through the 1980s and 1990s. He is now Spain's most produced twentieth-century dramatist. The official celebrations that marked both the fiftieth anniversary of his death and his centenary provide an indication of his current status as the establishment face of the newly tolerant post-dictatorship Spain and the country's ‘national’ dramatist.

Ten things you might not know about Lorca

  1. While now branded by his maternal surname of Lorca, the writer's full name is Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca. He repeatedly asserted that he was born alongside the new century (and early biographers often cited 1899 as his date of birth) but he was actually born on 5 June 1898 in the village of Fuente Vaqueros to the west of the city of Granada.
  2. Recent scholarship has speculated the possibility that Lorca's poor academic record both at school and later at the University of Granada may have been as a result of dyslexia.
  3. One of Lorca's early mentors was the composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946). Together they organized a festival of flamenco's deep song, cante jondo, at Granada's Alhambra in 1922.
  4. Lorca's closest friends at Madrid's Residencia de Estudiantes (an Oxbridge-like student boarding house) in the period 1922-26 were the painter Salvador Dalí and the later filmmaker Luis Buñuel. The films and books that deal with this creative axis include Buñuel y la mesa del Rey Salomón (Buñuel and King Solomon's Table) (dir. Carlos Saura, 2001) and Little Ashes (dir. Paul Morrison, 2009). Roger Avary is also planning a further treatment of the relationship in Gala Dalí (2008-09).
  5. There are no existent recordings of Lorca's voice.
  6. Andy García, Nickolas Grace, Javier Beltrán and Adrià Collado have all played Lorca on screen.
  7. Only two of Lorca's plays were published in his lifetime, Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding) and Mariana Pineda.
  8. Romancero gitano (Gypsy Ballads), Lorca's 1928 anthology, is now claimed to be ‘the most widely read, most often recited, most studied and most celebrated book of poems in the Spanish language' (see Ian Gibson, Federico García Lorca: A Life, New York, Pantheon Books, p. 136).
  9. Lorca was assassinated in the early stages of the Civil War on either the 18th or 19th August 1936 in a ravine between Víznar and Alfacar, to the north-east of Granada. His remains are thought to lie in an unmarked mass grave. The construction of a monumental garden in 1986, named in the dramatist's honour, commemorates those interred in this gully.
  10. Lorca was a musician and artist as well as a dramatist, poet and director. His work has been set to music by a range of composers including Dmitri Shostakovich, Simon Holt, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, Lluís Llach, and Enrique Morente. References to the life and death of Lorca also feature in the work of The Clash, Tim Buckley, and Nick Cave.
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